Delaware House Education Committee Gives Fond Farewell To Secretary Godowsky

As Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky spends his last two weeks in the role, the House Education Committee gave Godowsky a fond farewell at the end of their committee meeting today.  Together with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, the committee brought Godowsky up to the podium and a few members gave eloquent praise to the Secretary of Education who could only be seen as an improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy.

State Rep. and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques stated Godowsky became a dear friend which was echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.  Williams thanked Godowsky for always being there to answer her many questions and said she would miss him.  Godowsky informed me his last day will be January 24th.  Governor-elect John Carney named Indian River Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting as his choice for Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bunting will appear before the Delaware Senate on January 18th for her confirmation hearing.

I asked Godowsky if he was counting the days.  He stated he has mixed feelings about leaving.  He said he is sure on his last day he will be ready but he will miss working with the people.  But he is not done with education in Delaware.  While no formal announcement has been made about his post-Secretary plans, I have no doubt Godowsky will still be in the education arena.  He even joked at the tribute today that he will be “babysitting” education in the First State.

Despite my many articles about education policy and procedures, Godowsky was very much a sea change from Mark Murphy.  On a personal level, Godowsky was always approachable when I saw him and he would always say hello to me.  I can’t imagine leading the entire Delaware Dept. of Education.  The honest truth is I have no idea how Dr. Bunting will be as Secretary of Education.  So much of that will be based on the environment around her and what John Carney plans to do with that environment.  One issue she will face right off the bat is the education funding issue, especially in relation to Delaware’s projected $350 million dollar deficit heading into the FY2018 state budget talks.  I’ve been a bit rough on her on the Indian River audit investigation and the fallout from that scenario.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, best of luck to Secretary Godowsky and may good health and luck find you in your next plans.

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16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education!  As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016.  And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.

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Continue reading “16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky”

Secretary Godowsky’s Farewell Letter

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will be leaving his post when John Carney is sworn in as the next Delaware Governor in January.  I’m going to be honest here… part of me likes Dr. Godowsky.  I have a feeling if he were the Secretary of Education for a different Governor, things would have been vastly different.  But he was miles better than Mark Murphy.  Godowsky was basically a clean-up guy.  He had to get all of Jack Markell’s policies into place before the “Education Governor” left office.  Today, Godowsky sent a farewell letter to the Delaware General Assembly.  Expect to see some fresh faces in Dover come January 2017…

Dear Legislators,
I have appreciated your partnership and support over the past year-plus as we have worked together on behalf of our students, educators and families.
We can all be proud of the progress made in public education during Governor Markell’s administration with success ranging from early childhood education and K-12 schools to career pathways and college access. Together we have made systematic improvements that will continue to lead to improved outcomes in the years ahead.
Already the progress is clear: More children are enrolled in quality early childhood education centers; in state assessments, at the earliest grades, we are seeing some of the highest test scores in the nation; 10 percent of our incoming kindergarteners are beginning their learning in two languages through the World Language Immersion Program; we have more students graduating from high school than ever before; record numbers of students are taking and succeeding in college-level courses in high school; and revamped career pathways are aligned to the industry and economic needs of our state. These are significant achievements!
We need to celebrate this progress and congratulate the students and educators who are leading the work our classrooms across the state. We owe it to them not to rest but to work even harder in the months and years ahead to ensure every child graduates from our public schools prepared for success in life.
In my remaining time in this office, I commit to continuing to communicate and collaborate with you, and I hope you will join me in some important conversations about the future of our education system in Delaware. It has been a great honor to have served as Delaware’s Secretary of Education. Thank you!
In this newsletter you will find more information on our progress on Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and how you and your constituents can help inform the policy decisions we must make in the months ahead.
Sincerely,
Steve
Steven H. Godowsky
Secretary of Education
Delaware Department of Education
Dover, Delaware
(302) 735-4002

Is Godowsky Trying To Protect Himself From The District-Charter Funding Fiasco aka Blowmangate 2016?

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In reading Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s letter to the General Assembly about what I am now calling Blowmangate 2016, it appears Godowsky is shielding himself from potential accountability for this gigantic mess.  I believe he should.

In the letter, the word “I” doesn’t appear until the 5th paragraph.  Every mention in the timeline provided in the paragraphs before that uses the words “The Department”.  I firmly believe Godowsky did this to not only provide the entire state a definitive answer on this funding issue, but also to cover himself should any investigation or accountability rise from this.

At no point in the letter does Secretary Godowsky show he ever approved the changes to the charter and choice bills sent out from the Delaware Department of Education.  That is very important.  As many have surmised based on articles about this as well as an email from State Rep. Earl Jaques, Godowsky was in the dark on this until after the charter bills went out.  But he was the epicenter of the firestorm, as the News Journal called it, when I published the first article on this topic and legislators pounced on Godowsky like a mama bear would protecting their cubs.

At no time has the true mastermind at the DOE behind this ever provided any public comment about this: Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman.  In the Delaware DOE, it is very rare when someone is terminated.  On paper and in the public, it is usually a resignation.  Former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy “resigned” shortly after the priority schools funding issues with Red Clay were made public.  Former Accountability & Assessment Chief Penny Schwinn and her right-hand man Ryan Reyna “resigned” after the school report card saga called the Delaware School Success Framework showed many issues surrounding transparency and a lack of true collaboration with stakeholders.  Former Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Chief Christopher Ruszkowski “resigned” after complaints about his comments at the DPAS-II Advisory Group Sub-Committee.  We see this phenomenon often in school districts and charters.  It happens in the business world as well.  It allows for a graceful exit without controversy and saves both parties bad press and potential legal action (unless some “Sneaky Snake Blogger” writes about it).  Will David Blowman “resign” over his self-created Blowmangate 2016?  I believe he should “resign”.

For Secretary Godowsky, this has to be embarrassing for him.  He promised the citizens of Delaware there would be better communication and partnership coming from the Delaware DOE.  At his Senate Confirmation Hearing last October, State Senator Nicole Poore said Dr. Godowsky is “a breath of fresh air” after three years of Mark Murphy.  After the opt out penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework last year, where Godowsky changed course on the matter in two weeks, he had to deal with the closure of a brand-new charter school.  Key personnel at the DOE “resigned” as the better communication coming from the Department never seemed to materialize.  While Godowsky serves at the pleasure of the Governor, he does have his own opinions.  I have to think the decisions he makes based on his commitment to the Governor has to conflict with issues he wrestles with in his own mind.  Now the Delaware DOE has a babysitter over the district-charter funding issues in the form of the House and Senate Education Committee.  I don’t recall that happening at any time on any DOE issue.  This is a clear sign the General Assembly is at their wits end with the Delaware DOE.  In addition to that, the State Board of Education is under Sunset Review by the Joint Sunset Committee next year.  This is not something that is done at random.  It has to be put forth by a member of the Sunset Committee.  Eight members of that committee voted yes with one abstention (Senator David Sokola) and one absent (Senator Bryan Townsend).

Many people in Delaware, including parents, citizens, legislators, and educators are calling for an elected State Board of Education and more recently, an elected Secretary of Education.  Some seem to want the position of Secretary of Education eliminated altogether.  Many want radical change in the Delaware DOE.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act about to become the biggest topic in Delaware education, in addition to the upcoming primary and General Election, the DOE has to be very careful about how they conduct themselves.  They are being closely watched, and not just by me.  To give this a matter of perspective, they are standing on a frozen lake in early March and the weather forecasts are calling for warm days ahead.  Will the DOE be able to get off the frozen lake before they plunge into the depths?  Time will tell.  They need to change course immediately and realize that defiance of the will of the people and the General Assembly will not be tolerated.

As for Secretary Godowsky, he will retire next year.  He has the endpoint on his resume of being the guy that transitioned between Mark Murphy and whoever our next Governor picks as the Secretary of Education.  Time will tell how he will be viewed through the lens of history.  He could convince Governor Markell that what the DOE is doing is wrong and they need to abandon his plans for Delaware education.  I strongly urge Dr. Godowsky to consider that option in his remaining months.  He knows exactly what is at stake.

*The above picture of the Townsend Building, home of Delaware DOE leadership, in Dover, DE is from firststatepics.com

Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Letter To General Assembly States No Changes In Charter Funding This Year, Including Exclusions

The District-Charter Funding War of 2016 has officially been declared over.

While this topic will assuredly come up again, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a letter to the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate stating no changes will be made to choice and charter school funding this year.  This includes any changes in exclusions.  The Delaware Dept. of Education is putting a “hold” on what the exclusions had previously been until this blew up a couple of weeks ago in the public eye.

Please note how Godowsky frames the origin of this as “district to district” concerns.  That is an absolute lie.  We all know exactly where this originated from- Newark Charter School.  We also know the Delaware DOE was willing to stab school districts in the back in order to please the charters by circumventing state code any way they possibly could.  What they didn’t count on was the public openly revolting against them.  As I’ve been telling people, if you make enough noise, things will change.  We need to take this momentum and do more with it.  Markell, for all intents and purposes, is a lame-duck.  Godowsky will be gone in the next six months.  The DOE, at least their leadership, looks more like incompetent buffoons by the day.  This was a big mistake on their part.  Very big.  It would have been one thing if they made this a public matter.  Another if they clued the districts into it instead of all this cloak and dagger drama.

While this “resolution” doesn’t completely finish the job, the non-transparency role of this saga will end.  Any meetings going forward on this will be in the presence of the House and Senate Education Committees.  There is still one guy at the DOE who I believe has a lot to answer for.  I’m talking to you Mr. David Blowman.

The More Money For Delaware Charters Appears To Be Dead Thanks To Delaware Legislators

Mike Matthews, a teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District just updated his Facebook page with the following information:

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a very good source that since our swarm this morning, legislators have made this a priority and that they were livid this was even being considered. The Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, was communicated to multiple times today and told this was unacceptable — the reshuffling of District funds to go to charters. I am told that this plan is now dead and that Dr. Godowsky is backing down.

I’d love to see the mainstream media cover this from beginning to end. And even though this seems to be dead at this point, I think people deserve to see how our Department of Education continues to act under Gov. Jack Markell and his parade to privatize our schools.

Thank you first and foremost to Kevin Ohlandt for writing the article that got it all started. And thanks to all of you for sharing it hundreds of times on your walls and commenting up a firestorm. Legislators listened today and we got the action and outcome we desired.

Now, we have to CONTINUE to fight for a better school funding system that provides MORE for our neediest learners and gives them the opportunities they need to succeed!

No thanks are necessary.  I do something like this quite a bit.  But this was a really big deal that would have affect a lot of people.  This was the kind of article I hate to write.  Because it means it will seriously affect students.  I’m not saying Delaware education is perfect.  Far from it.  All our schools need help.  But this… this wasn’t fair and it wasn’t honest.  I’m glad our legislators did the right thing here and fought for the kids of Delaware.  This fight would have gotten really ugly.  But I will reserve victory until it is official.  I hate to blast on Godowsky so much, but he went back on his word about the opt out penalty last year.  One week he said he didn’t foresee a scenario where it would move forward and a week later, after he was confirmed by the Senate, he did a complete turnaround.  And we all know Jack Markell won’t take this sitting down.  But for now, this is great news.

Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Is Changing Funding Formula So Charter Schools Will Get More School District Money

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is about to set off an education war unlike any Delaware has ever seen.  If you thought the school district vs. charter school war was loud before, you haven’t seen anything yet.

In Title 14, the Delaware Secretary of Education has the authority to change the local cost per pupil.  When a student choices out of their feeder pattern, or their local school district, a portion of that school district’s local funds follows the student to the charter school.  To keep things in perspective, no Delaware Secretary of Education has touched this formula in the past 15-20 years.  There are slight increases each year based on inflation, but they are nominal in comparison to what Godowsky is about to do.

For big districts like Red Clay and Christina, this will hurt them… bad.  Any local school district that sends funds to charter schools will be affected by this decision.  Every school in Delaware already created their FY2017 budget months ago.  Each school district and charter set their budget on the expected number of students they anticipate having.  This was based on the same formula that has been in use for years and years.  When a district has a referendum, the funds generated from that referendum are earmarked for certain things.  Godowsky found a way to circumvent those funds to directly benefit charter schools in Delaware.

On August 8th, Secretary Godowsky sent all the Chief Financial Officers of each district a letter.  He asked them to list all of their restricted and unrestricted funds in their local budgets.  Restricted funds are not used in the calculation for money going to charter schools or other choice schools out of district.  These cover many things, like building maintenance, consultants, and food services as a few examples.  These are district expenses that only affect the district.  These aren’t services the student would bring to the new school.  The school the student choices to should already have those services.  Godowsky is moving budget allocations that were previously in restricted over to unrestricted.  By changing the way this is done, charter schools will get more money while districts will have less.  How much more?  It will differ between district and how much local money they have.  Even though Christina choices out more students, Red Clay has more money in their local share based on their tax base.  But the districts will bleed.  A lot of money.  From what I’m hearing it could be anywhere from 10-15% more money going to the charters, depending on the district.  Millions and millions of dollars.  This won’t just be a Red Clay and Christina thing.  Think Colonial, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smyrna, Capital, Caesar Rodney, Indian River… these districts will feel the pain as well.  Any district that sends dollars to charters will send more.

So when your kid comes home from school this year in school districts, don’t be shocked to see something cut that you thought they would have already had.  For charter school parents, they will be happy when their kid gets some new things they might not have had before.  In other words, charter schools will be getting more while districts will be getting less.  This will be in the double-digit millions.  I don’t have exact amounts yet.  But if your district pays a decent amount of money to charter schools, they will be paying a lot more.

Secretary Godowsky didn’t just wake up one day and say “I’m going to change the local cost per pupil formula this year!”  This wasn’t even his idea.  For this, we can thank the folks at Newark Charter School.  When Christina won their third attempt at a referendum last March, the school immediately pounced on Christina for more money.  Everyone wants more money, but Newark Charter School is relentless with their greed.  Immediately after the referendum, their board discussed a meeting that was about to take place:

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This trio from the bastion of discrimination and cherry-picking in Delaware, good old Newark Charter School, is Head of School Greg Meece, Board President Steven Dressel, and their Chief Financial Officer, Joanne Schlossberg.  The Superintendent of the Christina School District, in an Acting Superintendent role, is Robert Andrzejewski.  The Associate Secretary of Education is David Blowman.  This was in April of this year, a month after Christina passed their referendum.  Ironically, Newark Charter School’s May board minutes seem to have disappeared.  I did read these board minutes when they came out, but I don’t recall specifics (I should have saved them).  I know there was a lot of discussion about the school refinancing their bonds.  In looking at Christina Board minutes and listening to their audio recordings, I did not see or hear any mention of “Bob A”, as their Superintendent is frequently referred to, and this strange group of people meeting.  I would like to publicly, right here, right now, ask Bob A what happened at this meeting and be prepared to discuss at their next Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  You don’t get a skate out of Christina free card Bob A.

Bob A did have a meeting with Newark Charter School earlier this year.  He asked Meece to support Christina’s upcoming referendum.  Meece flat-out refused.  Even though their charter school directly benefits from Christina School District with their five mile radius requirement for students.  Even Governor Markell and Senator David Sokola supported the referendum.  Which was a bit unusual.  But even that mystery will be cleared soon.

Meece, backed by the Delaware Charter Schools Network I’m sure, successfully lobbied the Secretary of Education to change the local cost per pupil formula.  By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education has up until September 1st of each year to do this.  But if this wasn’t the final straw, get ready, cause it gets worse.  Several sources are telling me this won’t just go into affect for this school year.  Godowsky wants districts to pay for last year based on the new formula.

Districts are at a loss.  They are in a frenzy and searching other possible remedies to address this education funding catastrophe.  When was this decision made?  I don’t have the answer to that one…yet…but I’m working on it.  It has been in play since April according to the Newark Charter School May Board minutes.  David Blowman, as the former Deputy Secretary of Education until earlier this year, oversaw the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE.  Since their Executive Director left in June, Blowman has been taking on the responsibilities as the authority figure in that area of the DOE until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney.

I have to imagine that Meece had other help with this as well.  Something this high up and controversial would have to fly by Governor Markell.  I have no doubt in my mind Meece’s legislative buddy Dave Sokola had a hand in this as well.  Things like this don’t happen in a vacuum. I imagine the Delaware DOE will have to announce this by September 1st since this is the deadline for the Secretary to make these decisions.

This will create a war between school districts, charter schools, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network unlike anything seen before.  If this change in the way districts pay charters goes through, expect a lot of hardship on districts.  Expect boons for charters.  You will have to pick a side.  You can’t sit there and stay neutral.  Every Delaware candidate for public office is going to face this question.  This isn’t going to be a situation where both sides can come to the table and stay neutral.  This move by Godowsky is the knife in the back that will cause outrage.

All because one little man hates the Christina School District so much, and he continually runs his “great” school.  The same school that continually benefits from the laws Delaware Senator David Sokola creates every single year.  And from what I’m hearing, Sokola isn’t the only candidate running for office that is getting support from Newark Charter School.  But the actions of this one little man will affect an entire state.  If you thought the funding issues for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan were rough before, get ready for this whole thing to take on a whole new level.

I wrote earlier today about this with cryptic words.  But make no mistake, Governor Jack Markell is leaving this in the lap of John Carney to deal with.  Markell doesn’t give a crap about Delaware education.  He has proven this time and time again.  This is just one more of his final revenge tactics before he leaves office (he will have more if Jack lives up to his true self).  Markell hates Christina.  Watching him in the video supporting the district for their referendum… he looked like he would rather have a root canal.  But it was very important their referendum passed.  Which was why Sokola also supported it.  If their referendum failed, Meece wouldn’t have been able to get the opportunity for his huge money grab.

This will affect every public school district student in the state.  For years, education reformers true goals have been to privatize education.  They found a very successful way to do it with charter schools.  They suck money out of local districts until they are gone in some cities.  But this time, I believe Meece overreached.   The reputation of charter schools as greedy, money-sucking vampires of local school districts is now set in stone.  All because of Meece.  Remember this moment.  Remember who started all of this.

District parents… I invite you all to attend the September State Board of Education meeting on September 15th.  The meeting begins at 1pm at the Townsend Building in Dover.  Bring picket signs protesting Godowsky’s actions.  Give public comment and demand the State Board of Education take action on this abuse of power.  Make your voice heard.  Go to your local school district board meetings and tell them to not send this money to the charter schools.  Go to the charter school board meetings and tell them they can’t get more while their children get less.  I have no doubt the charter side will make a lot of noise.  But only 10-12% of Delaware students go to charters.  We have the numbers.  We have the louder voice.  And we have more voting power.  Find out which legislators support the district side and which support the charter side.  If they tell you they support both, they are useless.  This war will demand strength in leadership.

When the dust settles on this, there will be casualties.  The question that remains is how much more students have to suffer because of stupid little men like Greg Meece.  We can’t tolerate this as a state any longer.  We can’t have a third of our state budget benefitting charter schools and allowing our kids in school districts to suffer because of them.  This has to change.  The war began a long time ago, but take a side.  And get ready to rumble!

I will be updating this story with new articles as they come out.  This is going to be a long Autumn.  With this action, Secretary Godowsky will replace Secretary Mark Murphy as the most reviled Delaware Secretary of Education in our entire history as a state.

 

Who Will Pay The Price For The Godowsky Move That Will Cause The Can To Explode?

We have all heard the term “kicking the can”.  In Delaware, this is often referred to when it comes to education funding.  For example, when the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan was postponed for a year because the funding wasn’t available, many felt this was “kicking the can”.  Very soon, word is going to get out about an action created by Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky that will cause that can to explode.  It won’t be a question of later, it will be a question of now.

I know what the action Godowsky takes will be.  I know why he will do it.  I know who put him up to it.  I also know why they did it.  I know what they are hiding.  I know when they did it and why it hasn’t been announced yet.  The actions that took place the last week of June will take on new meaning.  It explains so many things that left so many of us scratching our heads.  This is the line in the sand that will change Delaware education forever.  No one is going to be able to sit on the fence with this one.  You will be on one side or the other.  It will change the upcoming elections in ways you can not imagine.  John Carney will have to deal with the mess Governor Markell will leave him.  While it won’t affect everyone, the reverberations of this action will leave seismic impressions throughout the state.

Other things this will explain will also cause massive change in how something else is viewed.  While it has been on the back burner for the past month, many will speculate if this had something to do with that.  This isn’t something that is speculation on my part.  This will happen.  When it does, allies will become enemies.  When it does, I will tell the entire story behind the story.  Because I have it down to the penny.   And while a certain someone thinks he is going to get away with this, your hubris will be your downfall.  This will make the announcement made on the steps of Warner Elementary School two years ago look like pudding.  I know how guiding hands have been building towards this for quite some time.

You have been warned Delaware.  A very dark wind is coming your way in the next 132 hours.  There is no escape.  For those who think we all need to get along and hash it out, even you will need to take a side and stick with it.  September 1st.  Wait for it.  Watch for it.  Fasten your seatbelt, because it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.  The civil war started and the first shots were already fired.  I already know which side I’m on.  And I hope to see you there as well my readers.  If you aren’t on our side, understand that no stone will be left unturned.  Think very wisely about how strong your trenches are.  I saw your Achilles heel months ago.

 

Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive

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Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has violated a directive issued to him by the law-making body of the State of Delaware, the Delaware General Assembly. Continue reading “Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive”

When Is The Next Delaware Assessment Inventory Meeting? Why Are They Stalling?

A week ago, I received notice the Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee will meet on April 26th.  Now, I am hearing May 2nd.  This came straight from Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky!  The May 2nd date is tentative.  So what is the hold-up?  It seems to me no one at the DOE really knows what they are doing with all of this.  Why are they the ones calling the shots?  They screwed it all up to begin with.

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The above picture came from Secretary Godowsky’s “Legislator Update”, an email sent to all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly yesterday.  While this may seem arrogant of me, I could swear they change these meetings to Monday afternoon because they know I will be at work! 😉

For all the hoopla Delaware has made of their beloved “assessment inventory”, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get anything done with it.  This has been in discussion since April of last year, when it was first announced at the State Board of Education meeting.  We all know what it really is: a “solution” to eliminate opt out by giving the people what they think they want (but we aren’t that stupid DOE) and to get rid of local assessments that give immediate feedback and help to guide instruction.

Parents say there is too much testing and I agree with that.  But take what Appoquinimink is doing: They are administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment and then the MAP testing immediately after.  What kind of message does this send to parents?  They will all say “there is too much testing”.  The Governor and the DOE will pounce on that and suggest getting rid of the lesser of the two evils.  Buh-bye MAP tests, hello to the great Smarter Balanced!  This is all rigged and far too many parents believe the lie.

Other “highlights” from the “Legislator Update” include:

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I love the use of the word “investment”.  While I appreciate Dr. Godowsky getting this out there, and it is light years better than anything former Secretary Mark Murphy did, sending out a newsletter instead of actually changing things legislators want are two very different things.  For example, how about House Resolution #22 Dr. Godowsky?  Why do they only put the “good things” the DOE is up to in this newsletter?  I would love to see articles on how the DOE is causing more stress and headaches in our schools.  Putting a pretty picture on a state agency really doesn’t fool anyone Dr. Godowsky.

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It was at last year’s Common Core for Common Ground that Governor Markell gave a very condescending speech to Delaware teachers.  He told them it was the last year before things start to count, meaning the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores being used for their teacher evaluations.  Of course this year, they won’t either.  And everything changes with the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing ESEA.  What teacher in their right mind (those not recruited into the Rodel-DOE-Markell “dream teams” that unabashedly promote Common Core and personalized learning) would show off the very standards and “results-driven” strategies (which is one thing only in Delaware: the almighty high-stakes testing score) to their peers?  It looks like there is free food though.  That is always a way to lure educators into these events.  It wouldn’t shock me if they use all the culinary students in the state to produce the food!  But will they have the chocolate eclairs Rodel uses as bait for Delaware citizens to their Vision 20whatever conferences?

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I can’t wait to see the scores on the “new” SAT.  They are going to plummet because of the Common Core alignment.  But instead of recognizing that, we will see constant reports about how our high school juniors aren’t getting the instruction they need to be college and career ready.  More pawns in the corporate education reform psychodrama.

Secretary Godowsky, Don’t Forget About Your May 1st Deadline! Will You Own Up To It Or Play Chicken?

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Delaware House Resolution #22 and House Bill #243 are Delaware legislation introduced by several Delaware House Republicans on January 14th this year.  That was also the same day the majority of the State Representatives in Delaware voted not to suspend the rules to override the veto on House Bill #50, the opt out legislation that DID pass the House and Senate last year.  For newer readers, Delaware passed a perfectly good opt out bill last year, but Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko brought the bill back on 1/14 in an attempt to have legislators override the veto, but many who supported the bill last year refused to suspend the rules to allow it come up for a vote that day.  It is sitting on the House Ready list, but only the Delaware Speaker of the House, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, can put it on the agenda for a full House vote.  I would give the odds of Schwartzkopf putting it on the Ready List at slim to none.

Several House Republicans felt House Bill 50 wouldn’t go anywhere that day, but they still wanted to keep the possibility of opt out alive.  House Resolution 22 gives Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky until May 1st to come up with procedures and a process for all schools to follow in regards to opt out.  He has not given any indication he would even address this resolution.  House Bill 243 would make it so no schools or districts would be held accountable for a parent opting their child out of the state assessment.  Which would also override any current federal laws on the issue as the federal law, like the Delaware law, states schools can’t opt kids out.  This is parent opt out, not school opt out.  It is a good bill, but the likelihood of it even being heard in the House Education Committee is slim to none.  At the end of January, State Rep. Earl Jaques rather smugly told me “that legislation isn’t going anywhere“.

We still have parents opting out, and we still have schools trying to bully and intimidate parents into not opting out.  Some schools feel it is perfectly okay for a child who is opted out to be in the classroom while others are taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Some schools are telling parents they aren’t allowed to opt out, and some are saying they will lose ALL funding if any student opts out.  Why would the House Republicans who sponsored this bill give until May 1st for Godowsky to act on it?  Most of the Smarter Balanced testing would have been done by then, or many students would have already “broken the seal” and started the test.  Be that as it may, Secretary Godowsky has un upcoming deadline.  I’ve already heard from a couple of legislators that Godowsky hasn’t even broached the subject.

Today in April 9th.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has 22 days to honor House Resolution #22.  Will he do the right thing or is he truly just Governor Markell’s puppet?  We will find out on May 1st!

One very interesting tidbit to report: another Delaware Republican State Rep. signed onto the bill and the resolution as a sponsor since it was introduced.  State Rep. Tim Dukes signed on as a co-sponsor for both.  Last year, Dukes consistently voted no on every iteration of House Bill 50.  Prior to the veto override attempt, he was emphatic about voting no again if it came up.  However, at the last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting in February, Dukes looked like he was starting to see the light with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was refreshing to see.  And then when I saw him added on these two bills, I have to admit I smiled!

 

State Board of Education Approved Modifications For DAPSS, DE Design-Lab, First State Montessori, & Prestige Academy

The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.

Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.

First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.

Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.

Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.

With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

For The Love Of God Godowsky, What Are You Even Talking About? And General Assembly: A No Is A No To Your Constituents

Dr. Steven Godowsky, Secretary of Education for Delaware.  Are you really telling people “Don’t worry about the override, schools are okay with opt-out.  They understand.”  Have you lost your mind?  We ALL know you are Governor Markell’s education puppet, dancing on his string.  Do you really think people don’t get what you are trying to do?  I could name twenty things that happened last year in Delaware schools without even looking back at my notes and the messages parents sent me about what schools did to prevent opt-out.  Campus Community School’s Board of Directors issued a policy mandating ALL STUDENTS SHALL TAKE THE TEST.  Appoquinimink sent out highly questionable letters asking parents if they understand the law.  Charter schools flat-out told parents no.  The endless litany of funding threats.  Students asked to lie to other students when they are opted out.  Moms brought to tears due to weeks of fighting with a school district. “You have to bring in a doctor’s note” came up a lot last year.  School boards that pass resolutions and policies that are ignored by administration in the district.  Your Department has publicly stated parents can opt out but they have done everything they possibly can to prevent it behind the scenes.  Do you really think parents are that stupid?  Maybe we weren’t rigorously brought up with Common Core and career and college ready standards, but I think it’s safe to say we did some pretty important things in the past twenty to thirty years.

Why are people trusting this guy?  He is NOT a breath of fresh air.  He is just a more experienced and polished Mark Murphy.  It doesn’t matter who wears the suit, it is still Governor Markell’s words coming out of their mouth.  If any legislators actually believe this complete and utter nonsense which was all I heard about today from tons of people, you need to wake up.  There are many reasons why we are at this point of utter stupidity.  I take back what I said the other day, Markell has not used up his bag of tricks.  I fully expect to hear some brand new bizarre “talking point” to come out of the Governor’s mouth or one of his other puppets.

Secretary Godowsky, we have bomb threats in multiple schools across our state and guns going off in the Central Middle School bathroom, and you are cluelessly (yes, I made up that word) walking around telling people “don’t worry about opt-out, don’t worry about the override.  We  don’t need it.”  Are you serious?  There is NOTHING better you could be doing right now?  Like working with the FBI to find out why all these schools are getting automated messages with bomb threats?  You are the Secretary of Education Sir!  Get with the program and stop fumbling around Dover doing the Governor’s last-minute desperate pleas to stop the override.  If you want to fight the parents, at least come up with something tangible and real.  Stop making up stuff!

Delaware legislators, this is a VETO OVERRIDE.  This isn’t a regular bill.  If this bill winds up going back to committee, during the long months stretching until the end of the 148th General Assembly, with parents basically lining up with pitchforks at Legislative Hall demanding this bill be heard, sucking up all the oxygen in the room, as you are trying to gear up for your upcoming elections, and you voted no for a suspension of rules…you are asking for all of what comes next.  We know Earl Jaques will keep this bill dangling and will let it just sit there.  It will never be heard.  And in the off chance that it does, and the House passes it, then we have Sokola over in the Senate.  And it starts all over again.  Opt out of saying no to the suspension of the rules.  This bill was ALREADY heard in committee.  It was voted on twice by both chambers.  If I hear about one more person saying “I’m voting no on suspension of rules but I support the override” I’m really going to lose my mind.  I don’t care if you are a Democrat or Republican.  Do the right thing for parents and students.  Let it be heard in the House without this endless committee crap.  And that goes for the Senate too!  Parents and your constituents deserve better than that.  The voting public does not care about any of these political games of one-upmanship and bi-partisan revenge tactics.  A no is a no, whether it is a vote against suspension of rules or a vote against the override.  In other situations, yes, this could be an issue.  But not this time.  You guys had your day of fun today and bringing your dog to smile for the camera (sorry Rep. Paradee)!  Now it is time to show the parents and students of Delaware where you stand: with us or with the Governor!

Secretary Godowsky And Governor Markell Recklessly Whitewash The SAT/SBAC Debacle While Violating State & Federal Law

“I, Jack Markell, do proudly swear to carry out the responsibilities of the office of Governor to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the people I am privileged to represent. I further swear always to place the public interests above any special or personal interests, and to respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware. In doing so I will always uphold and defend the Constitutions of my Country and my State, so help me God.”from the Delaware Oath of Office for all publicly elected officials

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Yesterday, Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education made a grandstand announcement about the SAT replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They forgot many things in their hasty announcement.  There are important and crucial reasons why this is not what it appears to be and actually violates many state and federal laws.

  1. The SAT went through a “redesign” to make it tied to the Common Core standards.  This is not the same SAT high school juniors took last year.  Delaware already has horrible scores on the SAT.  With the scores based on Smarter Balanced already showing less than half of Delaware students were proficient, expect those scores to plunge even lower on the SAT.
  2. House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Delaware explicitly states that “(j) Rules and regulations pursuant to this subchapter shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education.”  Since the State Board of Education did not vote on this, nor have they even had this as a discussion item on their agenda, Governor Markell broke Delaware law.  The State Board would not be able to vote on this until their February State Board meeting at the earliest.  By giving the Secretary full authority on this issue, Markell is in violation of his oath of office.
  3. There is no fiscal note for this unlawful change as well.  The funding for giving the SAT to all high school juniors in Delaware was part of the Race To The Top grant.  Those funds are now expired.  With the SAT at $90.00 or more, who is going to pay for this assessment?  Assuming there are roughly 10,000 high school juniors in Delaware, that price tag is now $900,000.00.
  4. As Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brilliantly pointed out yesterday, “Last year, the Governor announced that Delaware colleges agreed to use the Smarter Balance Assessment as a way to measure college readiness as Delaware students entered college. Students would be able to opt out of remedial courses if they were to score at a certain level on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what happened to that great idea?”
  5. Over the summer, Governor Markell spoke to an audience at an education “think tank” called New America.  He stated “Smarter Balanced is the best test Delaware ever made.”  Why is he replacing “the best test Delaware ever made” with the SAT?  Is Smarter Balanced no longer the “best test Delaware ever made?”
  6. By far, the biggest mistake Markell and the DOE made in their haste to push this through was their complete ignorance of students with disabilities who have to take the SAT.  As per Title 14, § 151, (f) ”The Department shall establish alternate assessments for children with disabilities who cannot participate in the statewide assessment of student achievement even with appropriate accommodations and modifications. Alternate assessments must be developed and used in the statewide assessment beginning not later than the 2010-2011 school year. Each local school district, through the individual student’s Individualized Education Program Team or 504 Team, shall determine what assessment the student will take, as well as the student’s matriculation or promotion status and necessary remedial activities if the student’s performance on the assessment is below standard, and if the statewide assessment is administered, what accommodations and/or modifications will be utilized. However, no student shall be denied the opportunity to take the state assessments administered pursuant to subsections (b) and (c) of this section.”  Since the decision was made to begin this in the spring of this year, has the Governor and the DOE assured students with disabilities that the accommodations offered on the SAT will be the exact same ones offered by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?  According to the College Board website, the process for accommodations on the SAT for students with disabilities is completely different.  At a minimum, the Governor and the Delaware Department of Education have now broken IDEA law (more on this below).
  7. With a letter from 10 Democrats, and not an actual resolution or bill passed by the General Assembly, Governor Markell has circumvented the legislative process.  House Bill 334 specifically states the purpose of the legislation was to transition Delaware from DCAS to Smarter Balanced.  Without an executive order, Governor Markell usurped the authority of the General Assembly and their ability to make laws in Delaware.  Since he signed the law, he has broken it.  “This bill provides for the transition of the statewide student assessment system, the Delaware Comprehensive Student Assessment (DCAS), to the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Smarter). Specifically, the bill removes references to multiple assessments.”

In terms of accommodations for students with disabilities on the SAT, it is a minimum of a seven-week process.  The deadline to submit this application, along with consent from the student’s parent, for the March 5th test is January 15th, for the May 7th test it is March 16th, and for the June 4th test it is April 15th.  This will mean that all IEP teams will need to meet to determine what accommodations students with disabilities will need for the SAT test.  What happens if the College Board won’t accept all the accommodations students received for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  According to the College Board website, sending an IEP or a doctor’s note is not sufficient by itself.  If Delaware State Code specifically states the IEP team decides on the accommodations but they are now subject to College Board approval, how does this even work?  In looking at the College Board website, they also ask for a great deal of personal student information including doctor evaluations and any medicine students take.  I don’t believe this is written in Delaware State Code.  The Governor and the DOE are seriously putting Delaware at great risk of potential litigation with this action.  In addition to IDEA federal law, there are also serious questions concerning private student data, FERPA, and basic civil rights for students with disabilities.

While Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky brought up working through the accommodations issue, he is not looking at the big picture at all.  In a letter sent to Delaware educators this morning, Godowsky failed to bring up many of the points I have made concerning actual laws his Department and the Governor have broken with this decision.

Message from the Secretary of Education

 
Fellow educators,
 
I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday break and have returned rejuvenated for the rest of the school year. Thank you for your continued commitment to ensure every child is prepared for success in our schools.
 
I am pleased to welcome you back with exciting news for 2016: The SAT will replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state accountability test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
 
We made this decision after hearing from educators, students, families, lawmakers and others concerned about the testing burden on students, especially 11th graders who already were taking both tests.
 
We formally announced this news today, and you can learn more here. This change comes with many challenges we must overcome in a short time period, such as determining the proper accommodations for students with disabilities, and we are working through these issues. We will continue to update this site with more information in the weeks ahead.
 
This year, the SAT is also redesigned. Changes include:
 
  • Two sections (plus an essay): Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math
  • A focus on the math that matters most for college and career
  • A move away from obscure vocabulary to the use of relevant words in context
  • The elimination of the guessing penalty
 
Several SAT supports are available to you as well. College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT test practice to all Delaware students. Khan also provides personalized SAT practice based on students’ PSAT results. Through a score reporting portal, you can monitor student progress and guide them in preparing for greater SAT success. More information on the re-designed SAT, personalized practice recommendations, and important SAT dates and news is available here.  
 
Teacher guides and professional development modules are also available to support educators integrating SAT practice into their classrooms. Resources are available online, and College Board can come to districts to assist with training. Find more information here.
 
We continue to look for ways to support Delaware educators, help students, and reduce testing, and we look forward to the results of the work of an on-going assessment inventory task force to inform our state’s policy in the future.
 
In partnership,
 
Steven Godowsky
Secretary of Education
It is more than obvious Governor Markell is desperate and scared of the veto override on House Bill 50.  He is pulling out all the stops, but now he is getting very sloppy, careless and reckless.  Delaware parents have him on his toes and he really doesn’t know how to handle it.  Legislators in Delaware are now confused about what to do based on these decisions by Markell and the DOE.  The amount of discussion surrounding House Bill 50 while completely ignoring the entire purpose of the bill is sucking the oxygen out of the room.  Legislators are forgetting what this entire bill is about: parent rights, nothing else.  It is not about over-testing, or the SAT, or anything else.  It is parent rights.  Parents want it, they asked for it, and the majority of the 148th General Assembly approved it.  Everything else is subterfuge and propaganda coming from the DOE, Markell, and Rodel.
Governor Markell, in granting the authority to the Secretary of Education of Delaware, to make this decision is in violation of his Oath of Office.

Secretary Godowsky Had No Choice With Opt-Out Penalties

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With the release of the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE about participation rates, we are getting a better picture of what happened the first week of November on the participation rate multiplier in the Delaware School Success Framework.  On October 21st, the soon to be confirmed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appeared before the New Castle County combined school boards at a breakfast.  He announced to the board members and superintendents of the districts that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely would not see the light of day.

The Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware Chief School Officers Association and Delaware School Boards Association all publicly endorsed Godowsky for his Delaware Senate confirmation in a News Journal letter to the editor on October 26th.  Two days later, Godowsky was confirmed by the Senate with only two no votes.  Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore referred to Godowsky as “a breath of fresh air“.  On November 5th, two weeks after his breakfast announcement, Godowsky flipped on his recommendation about opt-out penalties at the Delaware State Board of Education retreat.

Yesterday we found out the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE was dated 11/2/15.  The timing makes perfect sense.  Perhaps Markell did have a change of heart but was forced to flip back once the US DOE announced their opt-out mandates.  Who am I kidding!  Jack probably gave the US DOE the idea!  It does have his manipulative stench all over it.  I now understand why Godowsky looked like Judas Iscariot at the last Accountability Framework Working Group meeting and the State Board of Education meeting two days after.  His words said one thing, but the look in his eyes said something very different.

This may also shed some light on the bizarre Las Americas Aspiras Academy PTO email about opt-out.  Were they aware of this letter the day it was released?  I question the validity of this since their PTO leader stated ALL federal funding would be cut if 6% of their students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But given the nature of federal funding I can see how someone could misconstrue that.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE sent the letter out to all school leaders and Superintendents in Delaware the first chance they got.

I am seriously questioning why the letters to the twelve states who went below the 95% threshold and the letter sent to all the states announcing definitive cuts if participation rates went below 95% two years in a row were just released to the public yesterday, on December 23rd.  It was weeks after the final Every Student Succeeds Act votes and President Obama signing the legislation.  I have to believe some of these legislators in Congress knew about these letters.  How could they not.  No one can keep a secret that long.  Not in politics.

The smart thing the Delaware DOE and Godowsky could have done was simply tell the public on November 2nd they received these letters.  By doing this they could have taken some of the heat off themselves and shifted it to the US DOE.  Instead, they hid it from the public for over a month and a half.  They duped the public, along with the US DOE and every other state DOE, into thinking the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clauses about opt-out would allow states to decide how to handle opt-out.  They could have said they weren’t sure what they meant, but they had to reconsider the opt-out penalties.  Maybe through collaboration they could have come up with something different.  But this is not how the most unpopular state Department in Delaware operates.  Sunshine is not the best disinfectant at our DOE.  I think we need some good old-fashioned bleach to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We have far too many people involved in education who people like, and believe they have the best intentions.  But when it comes time for them to do the right thing all we hear is “I serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” or “It’s the feds.  We can’t do anything about it.”  For a Department that demands accountability from schools, teachers and students, they sure are hypocritical when it comes to themselves… And the duplicity continues…

Joint Finance Committee To Do A Top-Down Look At DOE Organization & Salaries This Morning

The Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware 148th General Assembly is meeting today for their Winter Meeting.

Orientation on the Department of Education Compensation System and Organizational Structure • Programmatic review of the Department of Education’s operating budget • Presentation by Secretary Godowsky on DOE employees/titles/salaries/duties and measures of employee effectiveness. The Joint Finance Committee may hold an executive session closed to the public for the purpose of discussing personnel matters in which the names, competency, and abilities of individual employees are discussed under 29 Del. C. § 10004(b)(9).

While meetings like this are not unusual each year, this one will have added weight to it this year due to events that have occurred in the past few months.

The Race To The Top employee positions that were supposed to be eliminated when the program expired remain at the DOE.  Another section of the state budget for the DOE was carved out for these eight positions.  When State Rep. John Kowalko found out about this he was furious, as were many other state legislators.

This is Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s first presentation of this sort to the Joint Finance Committee.  Last week he presented the DOE’s proposed budget where he asked for an increase of $87 million dollars.  The Joint Finance Committee will assuredly have many probing questions about the DOE’s intent and purpose for those funds.

Secretary Godowsky was confirmed by the Delaware Senate in October.  The week before he assured Delawareans that “harsh opt-out penalties” wouldn’t rule the day on the state’s new school accountability system.  He reversed that decision in record time ticking off many legislators, parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens in the process.

Following in Mark Murphy’s footsteps has to be a daunting task, but Godowsky’s continued proclamations of communicating better and improving the perception of the DOE has been built on empty promises thus far.  In a recent poll conducted by this blog, almost 35% viewed Godowsky’s first 60 days as okay.  Over 53% did not approve of his actions in his first 60 days.  Only 11% saw him doing a great job. While this is not an accurate assessment of Godowsky due to the nature of the readers on this blog, it does give an indication of overall dissatisfaction in his abilities as Secretary of Education.

Secretary Godowsky Wants To Add $87 Million To Delaware Education Budget & His Stance On House Bill 50

I support the Governor’s position.

Thank you Matt Bittle with the Delaware State News for covering the budget talks in Dover yesterday.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky wants to increase the education budget by $87 million for more funds to go towards the general operating budget and an additional $5 million for the capital portion of the education budget.  The article explained how the education portion of the state budget is currently $1.3 billion and the proposed increase would bring it to $1.39 billion.  Of the requested increases, $44.7 would go to salaries, $15.8 towards “projected growth”, and $9.5 to “technology initiatives”, “safety measures”, and funding for “ELL students”.

The article also reported Godowsky does not stand with parents and educators on the controversial opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The bill passed the House and Senate earlier in the year, but Governor Jack Markell vetoed the popular legislation.  As predicted, he talked about the whole assessment inventory and how there are too many tests.  But no one with the ability to change things is talking about getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  That will be number one with a bullet for me in 2016!  Godowsky’s whole claim about communicating and sharing information better is a crock!

That’s our big priority, that we communicate better, share information and get a good sense of where we’re going,” he said.  He described himself as “optimistic” that cooperation would be improved.

I have yet to see this renewed sense of transparency Secretary Godowsky…

State Board Audio Of Opt-Out Penalty Decision Is A Confusing Mess, Godowsky Stays Quiet Most Of The Conversation

Lord help me, I have transcribed the biggest part of the State Board of Education meeting from yesterday.  Once again I am numb from hearing the State Board try to figure out what the hell they were even voting on.  This is long, but there are very key and integral parts of this conversation which illuminate the State Board and Godowsky’s warped view of the whole opt-out penalty mess.  This whole decision, and the bulk of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework, is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The State Board also discussed the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objectives, which caused a huge outcry yesterday among parents of students with disabilities.  Here it is, but stay tuned at the end for a very special announcement with some, in my opinion, shocking news.

State Board audio transcription of the presentation on Delaware School Success Framework, 11/19/15

Players:

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of State Board of Education

Board Members: Nina Bunting, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, (absent: Vice-President Jorge Melendez and board member Terry Whitaker)

Donna Johnson,  Executive Director of the State Board of Education

Penny Schwinn, Chief Officer Accountability and Performance

Ryan Reyna, Officer of Accountability

 

Dr. Teri Gray: The next topic for us is the presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and any other revisions to the ESEA flexibility request.  Welcome.  Please state your name for the record.

Penny Schwinn: Good afternoon, Penny Schwinn, Director of Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation.

Ryan Reyna: and Ryan Reyna, same office as Penny.

Schwinn: Well good afternoon.  Glad to be here to present the final revisions to our ESEA Flexibility request.  Today what we’ll be going over is the specific recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework, or DSSF.  The recommendations for the rating performance thresholds, in essence each category a (?) system, and our annual measurable objective.  Just for a little bit of context, we have an approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver through the end of this school year, through 2016.  We can extend that through the end of the 2017-2018 school year contingent upon the following: we need to submit an amended request to incorporate some of the final modifications to the DSSF, and we also need to demonstrate that the DSSF will allow Delaware to name the required number of priority, focus, and reward schools moving forward in the future.  Again, just to be clear, we’ve already named our priority and our focus schools, we will not be naming anymore for at least three years as they move through that process but we still need to demonstrate that this system would do so.  We also need to provide the technical documentation for the DSSF.  We’ll be provided a Spring workbook, later, once that is approved, so that will let them know what the business rules and metrics will be.  We are also requesting an approval and support from the State Board on the final annual measurable objectives, or AMOs.

So just to provide a very brief overview, I know you are probably getting sick of this graph, you’ve seen it so many times.  But we have our DSSF and this is the whole system. So we haven Part A, and in essence that is the components  that are rated.  The versus proficiency, and that is the proficiency in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  We also have growth in ELA and Math.  And just to reiterate the points we brought up before. We have one of the most progressive growth measures in the country in terms of the weighting on our system in growth.  So as a state we’ve taken a very strong philosophical stance to really prioritize growth in student achievement as opposed to proficiency which I think is exciting.  Attendance, this is for elementary and middle school only, for school it is looking at on-track (to graduate) in 9th grade and again giving extra points for the catch-up work for those students who are in the bottom quartile in performance, catching up by the end of 9th grade.  The 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates, which is a big change for the state.  And then finally, for elementary and middle schools we have growth to proficiency in ELA and Mathematics, for high school it is college and career preparation which we’ve spoken about includes more than just one test, it also looks at career and dual education etc.

Part B is the components that are presented.  Transparently but not rated.  Right now that is specifically to surveys, student and parent, teachers may be optional, some post-secondary outcomes, we also know that every school in the state outside of one has provided a narrative report.  And in the future we’re hoping to include social and emotional learning.

So these are the recommendations that are outstanding for the DSSF.  And again these are the Secretary’s recommendations of what we should move forward with in terms of final business rules and components.  The AFWG (Accountability Framework Working Group) has not revised their recommendation from last month so I want to be clear about that.  For the participation rates for 2015-2016’s accountability year which is based on the 2014-2015 data, essentially if a school falls below 95% participation rate, in either Math or ELA, the school will need to create a plan.  That plan will be monitored by the Office of Assessment in terms of implementation.  Moving forward, so starting 2016-2017, based on data from this school year, all schools will divide their participation rate by 95% and multiply that by the proficiency to generate an adjusted rate.  What that allows for is both positive consequences, so if a school for example if a school is higher than 95% in essence they get bonus points for testing more of their students.  Again, it is the same multiplier we will be applying to schools that fall below 95%.  We are also reporting on disaggregated participation rates which is required federally.  So I want to stop there to see if there are any questions before I move onto performance ratings.  (No questions).  Ok, great.

So for performance ratings, we have the aggregate performance so each metric area will get their own aggregated performance.  We will not do an overall rating.  We will have that information but it will not be presented on the PDF so that is consistent with what you saw last month and what we presented at the last retreat.  It will be on a 5 star scale, based on the total points available and we’ll talk about what those cut points will be in a bit.

Gregory Coverdale: So I guess, to make a comparison, that’s why we’re dividing by 95%?

Schwinn: 95% is the threshold in terms of what our expectation is for participation.  So we don’t want to do that out of 100% because if you get 96% you are above that level so 95 is our top point so in essence we are saying that as long as you are at 95% you get a 100% of the points, anything above that is extra credit.  A positive consequence so to speak.

One of the things we did want to highlight, specifically, is just the number of schools who are increasing their ratings in terms of 3, 4, and 5 Star.  We compared that to AYP (Annual Yearly Performance-created through No Child Left Behind).  One of the things we looked at was in the AFWG, our working group, was to make sure that we weren’t just seeing the performance of schools specifically related to income, so what we looked at were the number of 3, 4, and 5 star schools that were Title I schools or had a large proportion of students who were low-income and what we found was that 52 of 124 elementary and middle schools were a 3, 4, or 5 star school under this system so we’re seeing that actually 42% of the schools are high-rated even when they have large proportions of low-income students.  That is not consistent with what we’ve seen with AYP which is a lower percentage of students who did not meet AYP.  So again, while we want to see more of our schools, and many of our schools perform at the highest levels, we see that this system more accurately represents the information, specifically the growth that a lot of our schools are seeing over time.

The last point we want to bring up before we move on is looking at the number of schools who would have dropped their ratings because of the participation rate.  That was an outstanding question we had.  I’ll look to Ryan (Reyna) to double-check on some of those specifics, but no school dropped a rating in the overall based on the participation rate multiplier (important note: they did not include high schools in this information, which would have shown schools like Conrad in Red Clay take a massive drop with their 40% participation rate in math).  We did have one school that would have increased based on this multiplier.

Gray: Based on the 14-15 data?

Schwinn: Based on the 14-15 data, that’s right.

Reyna: Which is not in effect as you see on this slide.  Hypothetical, as the board presented a question to us.  So again, in confirmation of what Dr. Schwinn just said, overall no schools would have decreased their overall rating.  One school actually did improve its overall rating as it was right on the cusp.  In the area of academic achievement alone, there were three schools that improved their ratings and one school that decreased their rating, again, because it was sort of on the cusp of where the cut points are set and we will show you that in one slide.

Gray: So again, what we were trying to clarify with that question, we appreciate that follow-up, was that multiplier applies just to the proficiency component, not the overall rating.

Schwinn: Yes, it’s just the proficiency which is just one component of the overall.  So we did see more schools having positive impacts based on the multiplier.  We did want to provide that information as requested.

Reyna: 141 out of the 149 elementary schools increased as a result, would have increased as a result of this.

Gray: One question about the plan that’s in effect for this accountability year, right, so what happens if a school has to develop a plan, or a template for a plan?  So what happens to the plan?

Schwinn: The school will be given a template.  We are trying to keep it compacted based in the information we have shared earlier which is essentially: what was your participation rate, what were either your theories or proof that would constitute being below 95%, there’s a variety of reasons why that might have occurred.  Then we ask the schools to break that down so we can really get to the heart of why students aren’t participating and we have them break that down by sub-groups so that we are sure we are all appropriately testing all our subgroup students and then from there that plan is submitted to our branch.  The Office of Assessment specifically will be the ones following up on that.  This is the first year the Office of Assessment staff will be visiting every single school in the state to help support how they will be giving assessments this year.  We know there were a lot of things, a lot of questions that came up last year.  We talked about that with the Smarter presentation so our office will actually be visiting every school and we’re doing monthly visits to every district in order to support that.  So those schools that require a plan will have that direct support from our office.

Gray: And is the plan in effect?  Just for the 14-15 year?

Schwinn: It’s a one year plan.

Coverdale: Is there some sort of matrix that categorizes why a student wouldn’t have taken the test?

Schwinn: That will be a part of the plan, and we’ll be happy to supply that to the board.  You would be able to see the reasons assigned to each school where students didn’t participate and we will be doing that overall and by sub-group, for this year.

So looking at performance thresholds, I want to start with elementary and middle school.  Again, this is the similar weights we submitted in draft form in the Spring submission and then brought back to you earlier in the Fall.  But what you’ll essentially see is what the weights are for elementary and middle and the points assigned.  We didn’t…the AFWG recommended a 500 point scale but we used that scale and essentially used the multipliers with the weighting provided to get straight point allocation.  Ryan will talk a little bit about what the cut points will be so you’ll see that with elementary and middle, and then again with the high schools which is slightly different weights.

Reyna: So in setting the performance thresholds for each of the metric areas, again that’s where our focus is, not necessarily on the overall numerical score, the recommendation is that those metric thresholds, those performance thresholds, must be broken up equally across the five different categories to represent 1 through 5 stars.  We would roll up those scores in terms of rounding.  If a school is at 29 ½ for instance on academic achievement, they would be rounded up into the 2 star category so that we are recognizing that benefit, to a half point difference may not be a significant one.  So the table at the bottom of the slide is an example of what those star ratings would be for elementary and middle school with the similar rating structure for high schools as well.

We also wanted to discuss the Annual Measurable Objectives, the AMOs, as has been required since NCLB.  The US Department of Education, in the transition, recognizing the transition that many states made to ESEA adjustments has allowed states to reset their AMOs, create a new baseline.  And so this process is one in which the US DOE has requested that we submit , our process for doing so as well as the actual AMOs by January of ’16.  This is specifically for public transparency for being clear about what the state’s goals are and not necessarily as it has been in the past for determining whether or not a school met AYP or accountability.

Coverdale: How are the weights determined?

Reyna: Sure, this was the recommendation of the AFWG in how they would like to see, or how they believed, the different metrics should be weighted across the full system.  So as Dr. Schwinn mentioned, there was a firm belief amongst the AFWG members that we should place the heaviest weight on growth and the growth metrics.  And that weighting system is what was submitted in draft form in our March submission.  And then after reviewing the data, the AFWG confirmed that they wanted to stick with these weights as a recommendation and we took the weights into a direct translation of that 100 point scale.

Coverdale: The growth is weighted higher on the high school level than it is on the elementary and middle school levels.  I would think that might be reversed?

Reyna: So it is a good question.  Growth directly is weighted higher at the high school level.  But if you take into account growth to proficiency at the elementary and middle school, sort of, if you take that as another sort of growth measure, than it actually becomes more in elementary and middle.  So you see a total of 60% growth metrics between elementary and middle, we have the growth category as well as college and career readiness category.  And then high school we have growth, just the growth category.  That’s 45%.  So 60% growth metrics in elementary and middle, 45% in high school.

Schwinn: I want to reiterate this is the submission to US DOE in terms of what our proposal is.  We’ve been on calls with them multiple times cause this is a very aggressive submission in terms of growth.  But the AFWG felt strongly that these were the right weights.  Though we are pushing pretty hard to make sure this gets approved as is.  And we sent those weights in our proposal and didn’t get any pushback.  They are waiting to see the full DSSF submission in terms of some of the data from Smarter Balanced and that stuff has come in so we can run some of the numbers with DCAS and Smarter.  That being said, they are very aware this is our number one priority in terms of this system.  The group felt incredibly strongly about weights and our responsibility to advocate for that as much as possible.

Reyna: As in previous submissions, the US DOE allowed for three different options for the process which a state would set its AMOs.  Delaware has used #2 in its previous submissions and the recommendation is to stay with that.  The process being, focused on decreasing the numbers of students who are non-proficient in six years.  So that business rule would be allocated equally amongst those six years moving from a baseline to six years in the future as a way to close those gaps.  And on the next slide, you will see what, using that process, what the draft targets would be for ELA, so movement in the state from approximately 50% to 75% by 2021.  Also recognizing that some of our subgroups who start lower behind are required to make improvements at a faster pace just given the process.  And you can see that visually in the next slide where you see, I know this is difficult to read, and I apologize, but you do see that some of the subgroups are starting further behind and are catching up to the rest of the state.

Donna Johnson: And this is the same methodology that was used before in our current ESEA flexibility?  I went ahead and pulled up our existing AMOs to kind of look at them side by side and we set the baseline in 2011.  And so now this is based on a baseline of 2015 scores?  And using that same methodology moving forward?

Reyna: That’s correct.

Pat Heffernan: How close did we come to meeting it the first three years?  My recollection, vaguely, is that we weren’t really, that these are pretty aggressive targets based on what we’ve been able to do.

Johnson: I think some subgroups…

Reyna: Some subgroups have not…

Schwinn: I think that they are certainly aggressive for those subgroups that are starting out low.  Students with disabilities, for example, going from 19.3% to 59.6% is certainly incredibly aggressive.  And I think that internally, and as a state we want to be rational and reasonable about what we would expect for students or schools to grow their students on an annual basis.  If you look at other subgroups such as students either white, or Asian, there is much less growth that needs to occur.  So I think it absolutely depends, but I think they are incredibly aggressive for some of our subgroups.

Reyna: The rule is, the calculation is going to consistently…

Heffernan: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure, and I mean , it’s certainly our stated goal, to increase those gaps and move them, bring them together.  I just, I’m certainly not one for dropping the bar too low, but I don’t want to, get in a thing where, we know that the problem with 100% proficiency, right, is that everybody says “We can’t get that anyways, it’s all hooey”, so I, however we do this, however we monitor it, I don’t want us to get too discouraged because someone like, I don’t think…

Schwinn: I think we have a responsibility on that note to the supports provided to schools.  So the state’s responsibility to provide supports specifically to those subgroups that have a tremendous amount of growth, and the districts the same, to be able to provide support to their schools.  We’re not going to meet these goals if we don’t provide really targeted and comprehensive support to a lot of our subgroups.  Cause there is a long way to go, especially since we have that new baseline with Smarter Balanced.

Johnson: Are there opportunities as we collect more data to revisit our AMOs based upon data and student performance?

Schwinn: We always have the opportunity to resubmit or submit amendments to this flex waiver.  We also know that it is highly likely that the new ESEA bills that is going currently will be passed before the new year.  Let’s call that 60-40.  But there’s a good chance that could happen.  That creates a lot of change, potentially, to how we address this.  For now, this is consistent with what we’ve done in the past.  We felt like it was probably the most appropriate way to move forward given a new assessment, and we also recognize that there may be opportunities, especially after the second year of Smarter Balanced, to revisit based on the data we get in year two.

Gray: I think it’s important, I think that, I guess, the methodology is as good as we can probably get it, but I think the consistency in terms of monitoring is “Are we making progress?” and the conversation should be on are we moving in that direction or not and the endgame is always for us to try to go back cause the baseline has been reset given that we are using the Smarter data versus where we were with the 2011 baseline, which I think is DSTP data.  I’m sorry, DCAS data.  The reality check there is that we had a higher baseline, actually, right?  And we were probably giving, really, a falsehood in terms of where we really were actually at with students proficiency relative to where we want them to be for the  college readiness perspective, right, so a 64% opposed to a 50.5% for all students, so that shift needs to be a reality check for us.  The other piece is, this method does say that we will close the gaps, right?  It’s not closed as in no gap, but we are closing the gaps.  That is the intent.  Cause I keep looking at almost by half in some cases.  If you look at the white students versus African-American students it goes from 25.7% to I think 12.9% or something, so that in itself is a very appropriate goal for us to go for, it shouldn’t be any less than that.  It shouldn’t be less than that.

Schwinn: We certainly always want to see gaps close because our lower performing sub groups are doing significantly better as opposed to seeing our highest performing subgroups doing either worse or (?) we want to get better.

Gray: And I think that formula allows for (? mumbles) I think the challenge, Ryan has given this to us a few times, is there enough methodology approach to say this is better.  We have yet to figure that out.  Maybe that’s a trust we need to try to bring in.  But I think it’s a reasonable one, but I don’t think the goal should be any less, regardless of…

Heffernan: I hear you, and again, some of these make more sense than others.  I just don’t want us to feel like, and to Dr. Gray’s point when she said, making progress or moving in the right direction, I don’t, I don’t buy that really.  It’s not just getting a little bit better, we’ve gotta make appropriate, I, if we set something that’s impossible to reach its just discouraging.

Gray: And then the other piece that’s tied into monitoring.  There are gonna be some individual schools and/or aggregate of schools, that will do much better than this.  And I think we need to make sure we always highlight that relative to the aggregate.  There will be some schools that we know, they have literally closed the gaps within their buildings, it’s not…

Heffernan: They’re not even here now…

Gray: I think that’s part of the conversation, it is possible, right?  If one or two schools can do it, many schools can do it.

Heffernan: Right, I totally agree with that.

Coverdale: I just, big question is how do you close a gap without having more on the upper end, the echelon of, flat money? (not sure, Coverdale speaks very low and it is hard to hear him in the audience so the audio recording isn’t a shock).  If one or two aren’t learning than it just become a perpetual gap.

Gray: I’ll let the experts speak on that.

Heffernan: Everybody has an upper trend on that graph.  It’s just some are steeper slopes.

Schwinn: Yeah, so you’re going to have a steeper slope for those students who are currently lower performing, specifically, our students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, are starting at a much lower baseline so they are gonna be required to jump by 5,6, or 7 points each year as opposed to our Asian and white students who are gonna be required to jump 1 to 2 points each year.

Coverdale: So is there someone in the classroom saying “Hey, African-American student, this is what you’re gonna have to deal with?”  Is there like an African-American student group?  Do you know what I mean?  That’s the kind of granular focus that we need to happen in order for some of this to come to fruition by 2021.

Schwinn: I think we are seeing with our districts, we just finished our end of year meetings with our districts, we are starting our middle of the year meetings with our districts, a lot of the conversation is really focused on how are you allocating your resources to really target those groups that need additional supports, and how as a state can we provide you with even more supports, whether that’s financial, or capacity, to target some of your lower performing subgroups.  So those are ongoing conversations and what we’re seeing is a lot of districts are really looking at school level and even student level data around how to target more efficiently their dollars and resources.

Heffernan: But are we sending mixed messages?  So that we looked at how we are splitting up the growth and weight, all those things, right, is the growth reflecting these slopes?

Schwinn: The growth on DCAS?

Heffernan: The growth targets that we’re giving people, growth proficiency and all those things, right, this isn’t growth proficiency, that’s not even growth, right?  So on one hand we’re saying the school is growing, we’re going to give you credit for growth, but on the other hand we say these are what our system goals are for growth and I suspect that they’re not really aligned.  You could give us a school that is doing reasonably well in growth targets and are not living up to this.

Schwinn: This is essentially improvement, right, so we’re looking at just a standard baseline improvement for something like an AMO, but I think when we’re looking at growth it’s a much more complex function.  We’re taking into account prior test history, we’re looking specifically at cohorts of students, this is,  essentially, we have to create a straight line of slope as we’re looking at an improvement from year to year as opposed to looking at aggregate growth.

Heffernan: But the cohorts are included in here, a successful cohort growth is much more based on our historical…which we’re not doing anywhere near this, so we would be exceeding our growth targets and coming nowhere near meeting our AMOs.

Schwinn: Yeah, I think it’s gonna vary pretty significantly by school, but I that is absolutely a possibility.

Johnson: The AMOs are something that we report for all subgroups but I did not see that the AMOs were specifically referenced in the DSSF.  So this is a separate report than the DSSF.

Schwinn: Schools will not be rated based on this.  This is something that we are required to publicly report, but they won’t have any of their ratings based on the DSSF impacted whether or not they meet these targets.

Heffernan: I guess the feds are making us do this, but I don’t really buy into it, and we’re not really growing on this goal.  Because the whole system isn’t pointing towards this, we’re not driving this at all, it’s completely separate conversation, we did what we did, sort of, our growth targets are based on what we’ve always…, this is one of my big beefs.  Our growth targets are what we’ve always done, right?  My growth target would be based on, kids like me, how much did I grow, and how much did they grow last year, and if I grow that same amount, if I grow less than that same amount, than I can still easily meet the targets, right?  But overall we’re saying that we gotta bring the targets, the bar, we would never, I just don’t think the system is geared towards producing these results.

Coverdale: (mumbling again) How would the growth trajectory for African-American students be different, and I’m in the same class as these whites, and Asians, and everyone else.  I’m doing the same thing but I grow more, at a higher growth rate than everyone else.

Schwinn: I think that would get into some of the differentiation and instruction that teachers have to do and I think that teachers are, their job gets harder more and more every year, and things are being asked of our educators and they are doing a tremendous job in meeting the needs of individual students, but you’re right, there’s gonna be different growth expectations for different students in your class, and I think, I would say that we are happy to publish these targets, and separately say that we really stand behind the work of the AFWG in terms of really prioritizing growth in a more meaningful way than some of our subgroups formally…

Coverdale: (mumbling) by 2021…

Gray: I think the aggregate conversations are difficult, like this AMO one, and so, federal mandate or not, I think in the spirit of multiple measures, these should be trending in the same direction.  From a growth to proficiency, or a DSSF perspective, centered around that, or these aggregates, but we look at this whole population of 130,000 kids, where with the DSSF were really targeting accountability in our schools in terms of that calculation.

Barbara Rutt: But I would say still, in this conversation and not to get philosophical, but when you talk about multiple students in one classroom this whole concept of personalized learning and how do we get out of that expectation gap.  Cause we have evidence that the gap is closed at certain buildings and at certain at-risk schools so all of this is really possible.  It’s just a matter of how you close the expectation gap as well as actually put the personalized learning into play, and how you give more ownership with that learning, or shared learning, at the student level.  So I think that’s part of the conversation we’re struggling with and half of it is as much to do with policy as it is what is actually the relationship that is happening in the classroom.  Cause we have buildings, we have gaps close, we have schools around this country where there are no gaps, right? So we know that it is possible even if we got these aggregate AMOs or whatever, we got the DSSF which is getting down to the next granular level, like this is what needs to happen at that more intimate level, we got class change, so it should all be going in an upward direction.  As a pass point, it’s going to be very difficult for us to get our actual measures to line up with something at the Federal level cause its hard to serve millions of kids at the personalized level that you need to do, right?  Versus what we would do in Delaware.  So that’s where I am, and let me know if the measures are doing good.  I think it’s really worth the conversation.  They’re all doing that, even if…

Heffernan: The growth measures doing this, there’s no slope…

Gray: AMO? Is that what you’re looking at?

Heffernan: No, I’m talking about the growth of the DSSF.  How about a zero slope, right?  We’re talking about low growth targets or what we did last year, aren’t they?

Gray: No, I see why you’re confused.

Reyna: We moved away from the growth targets at the school level.  Its focused on the aggregate of student growth , there’s no longer a target of other than growth to proficiency is are you…

Heffernan: Growth to proficiency, I got that, yeah

Reyna: The growth targets that are part of the teacher evaluation system are slightly different than the way in which growth is calculated on the DSSF and we plan to discuss that, I believe…

Johnson: Yeah, so we’re not looking at student growth target, as we used to look at when we had the DCAS broke down, but we are looking at that Spring to Spring growth model and looking at it as a school level growth rather than…

Heffernan: But what is the goal of growth?

Johnson: Then you’re looking at the aggregate of, you know, with the conditions around it, did it grow more than the expected growth value of ones like it, and that’s where we use multiple levels of data.  That’s what you’re getting at, in terms of saying, are we seeing growth expectation based on multiple years of prior data, but we are looking at prior years of test data, not just prior years of that grade, which is what we have done before.  Ryan can explain it much better.

Heffernan: I won’t , but I guess, if the target is going to be aggressive in some cases, but on the other hand I think, well, I’m looking specifically at students with disabilities so that’s…

Gray: I gotcha…

Heffernan: We don’t want the target to be what we’ve always done. But I think we understand we need continuous improvement.  If we feed that correctly in there, if we align…I was just questioning that.

Gray: I agree with you.  I think that students with disabilities has always been one of the painful, realistically “How are we going to figure out that one?”  Not only realistic…

Heffernan: Not that we don’t need to do it.  You’re not going to see anyone think we need to do it more than I do.

Gray: I think it’s also worthy, cause it’s confusing Ryan, around the growth targets, and I think I have it in my head, I think that’s really where we were a few cycles back?  So we will always need to refresh our…

Reyna: Happy to do that…

Gray: Growth model.

Nina Bunting: Would you bring me up to date please, cause I wasn’t here in the Spring.  I just have to ask if there are stakeholders out there that feel their recommendations have been dismissed, what about this plan addresses that?  Have their recommendations been dismissed?  Or have you actually addressed those recommendations and incorporated them into the plan?  Because there are people who are very, very concerned.

Schwinn: Are you speaking specifically about the participation rate piece of the DSSF or the AMOs?  I can address both actually.

Bunting: Yeah.

Schwinn: Great.  So one specifically, and I should have probably stated this earlier, the pieces on the AMOs have not gone to DESS, they will go to DESS, a lot of the changes made, will go to DESS in December.  So they have not looked at that specifically.  We are looking at this participation rate discussion.  The recommendation of the AFWG has not changed.  Their recommendation was to do a plan as a primary consequence.  After discussion, and meeting at the retreat, from last month and this month, the recommendation of the Secretary is to use the mulitiplier.  I want to be clear that was the recommendation of the AFWG.  I know that in conversations we were looking at a multitude of input, and the recommendation put forth by Secretary Godowsky in terms of the participation rate.  The AMOs are put forth by the State and we decided because it was a new assessment we should move forward with what has been consistent in prior years.

Reyna: The rest of the plan with all the rest of the DSSF is based on the recommendations of the AFWG.

Schwinn: And the refresher from the Spring, around what kind of stakeholder engagement has been, the other big conversation has been how do you represent the data?  And one of the things we did, we did a series of focus groups that were facilitated by the University of Delaware, and then did a very brief, very fun, pick your framework that you like, the layout that you like.  The feedback that we got was that people didn’t like the layout, any of the options.  There were rocketships, and I think, grades, etc.  So we went back and looked at stars and that’s how we got the star system which was a compromise on that.  We have taken the majority of the feedback, especially from the AFWG, which has met over 16 times over the last 15 months…

Bunting: So you did take their recommendations?

Schwinn: We’ve taken a majority of their recommendations.  I just want to be very specific that there were the recommendations that were on the previous slides where they wanted the plan as the consequence for participation rate.  That was the recommendation, the recommendation in front of you is the multiplier.  But we’ve definitely been…it’s been a lively and engaged group in terms of the recommendation, but the majority of the recommendations have been taken.

Heffernan: What that process was, the group made a recommendation and not a decision, just as often we do with the Secretary around charter schools or whatever it is, the groups come in, and at the end of the day somebody weighs multiple views …

Schwinn: And there are many groups who provide that input and feedback.  The AFWG is the organized group that meets regularly but I certainly know that there are a variety of emails that have been sent to our Accountability email address and all that information is provided as part of the record.

Gray: Yeah, part of this conversation, I think we were 9-10 times on record having this discussion from the very first presentation, which was in March, April, I don’t recall, and much later in the year, so the DSSF component presented in the earlier charts, that kind of outline of A and B and the weights, that has not changed over time, and that came directly from the conversations.  And the whole participation rate, which has been the most robust conversation, that did come back to us initially last April, May (it was March Dr. Gray), it may have been earlier, March, April, the participation rate.  And then what came after was at the end of the AFWG conversations and that was probably the last, if not, one of the next to last sessions I was able to sit in around the conversation of having ratings, and the stars, that came out of that deal, and now we are at stars, versus having an overall rating, and the compromise around having stars as overall ratings, so that was the big one.  And the participation rate, what we actually said in that conversation, and now with the recommendation from the Secretary, was that, you know, the participation rate really does, we wanted a balance of that conversation, so at 95%, left at 95% with the multiplier, we also asked for the upside of that, so if when were above 95%, they get the same upside, an uptick, so we really wanted that balance…

Heffernan: And more schools were given the uptick than the down…

Gray: More schools were given an uptick, cause we really did not want to have a conversation as a one-way consequence, the actual definition of consequence, positive and or negative, is actually the conversation…

Dr. Steven Godowsky: I want to make some comments.  On November 17th, last Tuesday, we had a meeting of the AFWG to discuss the rationale for the modification of the plan so we did bring the group back to their 17th meeting to have that discussion.  I also want to say that the AFWG did, in my opinion, settle on the most important measurable outcome, and that’s the whole idea of a rated growth.  And that is probably the fairest to all schools, and the best measurement for a direct effect of teaching.  That’s where we can make a difference and that’s where we have control over that.  So I think they did absolutely the right thing on that.  And so the fact that has the most value, it belongs there, in my opinion.

Gray: I agree, and I appreciate that, cause growth is where we think the conversation should be, you know, for struggling students and those that are excelling, if we have them in our midst of a K-12 place, we want to see growth.  And  you talked about, there couldn’t have been more alignment, between where the Board is, and the Secretary, and where the AFWG is on that.

Reyna: So last, and you have the Math targets.  Similarly, it’s in process.  Last piece is next steps.  As Dr. Schwinn mentioned, we’ll be submitting, upon assent of the Board, so upon submitting final documentation to the US Department of Education next week, essentially before Thanksgiving, and then would wait for their response.  Certainly our expectation is, there is a lot of transition at the US DOE right now and with the holidays coming, I don’t necessarily believe we would be able to get that before Christmas for instance, but sometime in the early 2016 timeline and then from there the commitment is, again, to update and resubmit Regulation 103 within sixty days of approval by the US Department of Education, with public comment, at which point would then come  back to this Board for discussion and ultimately, action.

Gray: And when do we expect to hear back from US Ed?

Reyna: It would be great if it was before the end of the year, but likely, January, February timeline.

Schwinn: They committed to four weeks, but I don’t think that is taking into consideration that we’re going to have a new Secretary of Education (at the US DOE) there, so our expectation is sometime around the week of January 10th.

Johnson: And then once final approval is received, the Department would then begin re-revising Regulation 103 and we would have sixty days to promulgate those revisions and bring that back before the board for discussion and ultimate action.

Gray: Okay.

Schwinn: Are there any questions?

(none)

Gray: So the Department of Education seeks approval of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver application revisions as outlined in this presentation.  Is there a motion to approve DOE’s ESEA Flexibility application revisions?

Coverdale: So moved.

Gray: I do need a second.

Heffernan: Second.

Gray: Thank you.  Any further questions or discussion?

(none)

Gray: All in favor, indicate by saying aye.

Gray, Heffernan, Coverdale Rutt: Aye.

Gray: Any opposed? (none) Abstentions?

Bunting: Abstention please.

Gray: Motion carries.  Alright.

Johnson: Could we elect to do a roll call?

Gray: Sure

(roll call given, same result, Whitaker and Melendez absent)

 

And with that, the Delaware State Board of Education passed the opt-out penalty in the Delaware school report card.  What makes this all very interesting is the fact that two of the participants in this whole conversation will not even be at the DOE by the end of the year.  Two of the individuals are resigning from the DOE.  Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna are leaving.  A very important fact to make note of here is the timing on approval of this ESEA waiver application.  The DOE can not submit Regulation 103 until they get approval from the US DOE on this.  At that point, they have to redo Regulation 103 and it won’t be voted on by the State Board for at least sixty days.  Which gives the 148th General Assembly more than enough time to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50!  And with that, I will bid you good night.  Stay tuned (literally) tomorrow for the most offbeat post of the year, possibly my lifetime.  I know one person who will definitely want to see this!

 

DOE Tweaks Opt-Out Penalty But It Is Still Harsh

The State Board of Education finally put the Delaware School Success Framework update on the State Board of Education agenda for the meeting today.  They have tweaked the opt-out penalty a little bit, but it’s still not good enough.  It is still a harsh penalty that will hurt schools over parental choices that are beyond a school’s control.  Nobody was allowed to give public comment about an action item.  I didn’t.  I talked about school transportation.

This is what I said:

So I’m driving my son to school this morning, at a private school with no Common Core and no Smarter Balanced Assessment. (Thank you God!) (look up)   And ahead of me, there’s this school bus.  In the other lane, a car swerves over the line in front of the bus, but the bus driver keeps going straight ahead.  I watched in astonishment as the car noticed the danger and moved over, almost hitting a sidewalk on his side.  I don’t know why the car swerved over the line, and I don’t know why the bus driver kept moving straight ahead oblivious to the danger in front of him.  But it could have been a serious accident.  I can imagine though.  Perhaps the other driver had a disability and suffered a painful motor tic while driving.  Maybe they were a student who comes from poverty and wasn’t able to eat the past few days.  Maybe it was a teacher running late for school because they lost so much sleep worrying about their next evaluation.  We just don’t know.  Meanwhile, the bus driver who ignored an obvious danger, what were his motivations?  I would assume a bit of arrogance.  I can imagine the thought of “I’m not moving.  I’m in the right.”

This is Delaware education in a nutshell.  We have different bus drivers carrying the load of every single student, educator, and school in the state.  Sometimes it is Governor Markell, other times it is Secretary Godowsky.  It could be Dr. Gray.  Or Pat Heffernan.  Or any of you on this board.  Sometimes it seems like someone not even allowed to be a bus driver, like Paul Herdman of Rodel , is driving the bus!  I see the same mentality of that bus driver when I see the leaders of education in Delaware.  I see them making changes and policies based on plowing ahead without knowing the dangers that are clearly in front of them.  Sometimes they spend millions of dollars trying to find out why the other driver swerved over the line.  For whatever reason, our leaders assign blame to people who weren’t even in the car.  Sometimes we are so focused on the blame that we fail to realize the other factors that could be taking place. 

Every time this board meets, you make decisions for the children of Delaware.  You’ll do that today.  You’ll decide how to prevent accidents even if you could be the ones causing them.  But you will never take the accountability on yourselves and realize that you could be the cause of many of them.  Because you are so focused on driving down that road and getting to where you want to be, that you fail to understand the other conditions of the road.  And in your decisions, it never dawned on you that you are driving in the wrong direction on a one-way road that leads to heartache and devastation for hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, parents and communities.

I showed the State Board some pictures of my son since they have never had the opportunity to meet him in person.   I advised them their collective actions have led to his situations in the Delaware public education system since the focus just isn’t on the kids anymore.  Sabine Neal spoke about special education and the DOE’s failure to act, State Rep. Kim Williams talked about the State Board getting to more meetings and not just sending the same designee, Mike Matthews spoke about WEIC and his desire to see the State Board at all four of the public hearings for the redistricting effort in Wilmington, and Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network spoke about school choice and the upcoming Charter School Expo.  Below is the Delaware School Punishment Success Framework.

Godowsky

Today.

Legacy.

Forever.

Past.

Doesn’t.

Matter.

Choice.

Markell.

Puppy Dog.

Or.

Savior.

Sheep.

Or.

Leader.

Penalty.

Wrong.

Guilty.

Drowning.

Quit.

Parents.

Rights.

Test.

No.

Peers.

Unelected.

Opt.

Out.

Yes.

Children.

Best.

Interest.

Stop.

No.

Never.

Teachers.

Principals.

Superintendents.

Schools.

Today.

Legacy.

Forever.